Social media and self-esteem
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Harriet Frew
16th December, 20140 Comments
Social media has in many ways enriched our communication significantly and enhanced our ability to stay in touch with loved ones across long distances. The pleasure in instantaneous sharing of experiences with friends; getting ‘likes’ and reading comments brings a warm smile of delight. There is also something gratifying and rewarding about feeling in touch and on the pulse of what is happening in the world. Many an interesting political view or opinion has been shared on twitter within seconds and allows people to rapidly connect with other like-minded individuals across the globe.
Unfortunately, use of social media can equally have the opposite effect and bring on feelings of inadequacy, envy and inferiority. Flicking through friends’ Facebook pages (of course everyone posts the glossy, improved version of themselves) and scrolling through the Instagram accounts of celebs; it is easy to start wondering if there is something wrong with you.
Values such as the pursuit of physical perfection and eating the ultimate healthy diet are held up as the pinnacle of achievement. These are then displayed attractively with enticing pictures – no wonder we begin to feel anxious that these things matter. It is no surprise that you might feel you should be upholding these standards and you are not quite good enough. And what about when you don’t get the interaction and ‘likes’ you are hoping for when you post your own pictures. Then what does this mean? It is a recipe for self-doubt and nagging self-critical talk.
If you relate to this, then you are not alone. Scientific studies confirm the connection between social media and well-being. The University of Salford (UK) demonstrated that about half of the survey’s participants (regular social media users), reported that use of social network made their lives worse. In particular, participants noted that their self-esteem suffered when comparing their own accomplishments to those of their online friends.
Additionally, a study conducted by The University of Gothenburg in Sweden surveyed 335 men and 676 women to help determine the link between self-esteem and Facebook usage. A significant negative relationship between the two was uncovered; as Facebook interaction increased, self-esteem decreased. Women particularly were apt to feel less happy and content with their lives.
Five tips for engaging with social media and keeping your self-esteem intact
- Remember that you are looking at one side of someone’s life. You are not seeing the whole picture. Keep a questioning mind when viewing social media.
- If someone appears to have the perfect body, this might be maintained through health and well-being. However, you don’t know what their relationship with food and their body is like. It could well be a disordered one.
- Monitor the time you spend on social media. If you know you feel bad after looking at certain websites, then try and avoid them!
- Follow people online who inspire and motivate you in a wider sense rather than focusing on looks alone.
- Try not to compare yourself with others. It stops you being the best version of yourself.
If you recognise that low self-esteem is getting in the way of your leading your fullest life, it can also be helpful to explore these issues further with a counsellor in a safe and supportive space.
About the author
Harriet Frew is a counsellor, blogger, writer and enthusiast in supporting people with eating disorders. She has worked in the NHS; private practice and in the voluntary sector; working in the field since 1999. Harriet now works privately in Cambridge and at Weight Matters in London.
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